An inquiry has now been ordered into the way Australian diplomats handled the imprisonment of Ben Zygier-Alon, “Prisoner X,” in Israel, Australian media report (Foreign Media: Ex-Mossad Agent Committed Suicide in Israeli Prison). Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr has ordered the review after learning that an Australian diplomat in Tel Aviv had been told by Israeli authorities about the jailing of Zygier-Alon in 2010.
But said diplomat chose not to pass the information on through appropriate channels.
“Prisoner X” was found dead in his isolated, high-security cell in late 2010.
Australia’s Foreign Minister had said earlier that his office not aware of the man’s suicide under false identity until his parents asked for help in bringing his body back to Australia. He was buried in a Jewish cemetery in Melbourne.
An ABC report said Zygier had been living in Israel for about 10 years before his arrest in early 2010 and was married with two children. At some point he was recruited by Mossad.
It was not clear why he was arrested in 2010, but he was taken to Ayalon Prison in Ramla. There he was held in isolation until his suicide in December 2010.
A heated debate took place on Tuesday in the Knesset during the speech of Justice Minister Yaakov Ne’eman, over the story of an attempt by the Prime Minister’s office to clamp down on publication of a story that exposed Israel as running a “black prison” type operation where at least one prisoner disappeared only to reappear after committing suicide in his cell.
“It was published today that an inmate with an Australian citizenship has committed suicide in one of Israel’s prisons under a fake identity,” the Arab Ra’am-Ta’al party MK Ahmed Tibi inquired of the Minister. “He was registered under an identity other than his own. Do you know about the case? Do you confirm the fact that an Australian citizen committed suicide in prison, under a false identity, and without publicity for the fact that he was a prisoner and detained in a prison in the state of Israel?”
Meretz Chairman MK Zahava Gal’on also posed an inquiry to Ne’eman: “Mr. Minister, I want to hear your view about the fact that journalists volunteer to censor information at the request of the authorities. Does it appear proper to you that the prime minister’s office would assemble the Editors’ Committee to prevent publication of an episode that could embarrass Israel?”
The Editors’ Committee is an informal forum of the editors and owners of the main Israeli media. It meets regularly with the prime minister, cabinet members and senior officials, for “background” information. In past years, the committee championed the self-censorship of the Israeli media, with the understanding that the information reported to the committee would not be published, even after it appeared in another source.
Obviously, any attempt to repress information in the age of the Internet is both delusional and makes the PM’s office and the Editors’ Committee look like a relic from a 1960s spy novel.
Gal’on continued: “Is it permissible to conduct clandestine arrests in Israel in the name of security needs?”
Gal’on reminded the minister that she was the one who revealed the existence of interrogation facility in Camp 1391, Israel’s secret Guantanamo Bay. The Guardian described it, in 2003: “Facility 1391 has been airbrushed from Israeli aerial photographs and purged from modern maps. Where once a police station was marked there is now a blank space. Sometimes even the road leading to it has been erased. But Israel’s secret prison, inside an army intelligence base close to the main road between Hadera and Afula in northern Israel, is real enough.”
At the time, MK Ga’on appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court, which ruled unequivocally, as she put it Tuesday: “that you cannot keep people in secret detention and that this will not happen again in Israel.” Then she continued: “And now we hear that in a country that claims to be a proper democracy, journalists are collaborating with the government without a directive from the High Court that there is clear and imminent danger to state security, that hidden prisoners commit suicide and no one knows about their existence.”